Federal Labor MPs have resolved to oppose the government's legislation for a national commissioner responsible for veteran suicide prevention.
This means with the government's plans will face defeat in the Senate unless it secures more supporters from the crossbench.
The mother of a veteran who took his own life, Julie-Ann Finney, renewed her calls for a royal commission into veteran suicides, saying the government's plans for a national commissioner does nothing for veterans.
"Not one veteran will be helped," Ms Finney said at a media conference with Labor leader Anthony Albanese. "We don't need amendments or adjustments to this legislation. It just needs to be defeated.
Ms Finney who wrote in the Canberra Times on Tuesday that she felt the PM was not honest about the what a national commissioner could do to enhance and address veteran suicides. She noted that royal commissions would have the powers to figure out why veterans are taking their own lives.
Her digital petition for a royal commission has received more than 370,000 signatures.
"We need well-being for our veterans. They sign a blank cheque for us ... today, I am feeling emotional, and I apologise. But my son, and many other children, many other families, they deserve nothing less."
Senator Jacqui Lambie has been the most vocal of the crossbench on veteran suicides, taking out a full page ad advocating for a royal commission. She called the government's plans a "cut rate coroner" that would "never deliver" a final recommendation on the issue.
"Thank you for listening," Senator Lambie tweeted when Labor announced its decision to oppose the legislation.
The bill proposed the commissioner would have statutory independence and authority to gather evidence, including summoning witnesses, somewhat similar to a royal commission in powers. They would be tasked with identifying the factors and systemic issues that contribute to suicide risk among serving and former Defence Force members, and make recommendations to government.
Dr Bernadette Boss, a magistrate of the ACT, was named as interim commissioner by the Attorney General Christian Porter in October.
Mr Albanese also questioned what independence Dr Boss could have, given her long association with the ADF as a reserve legal officer in Australian Army, in which she currently holds the rank of Brigadier.
Preparation work has begun for Dr Boss to conduct an independent review of past Defence and veteran suicides, with technical expertise contributed from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.
Dr Boss made a statement about her role and the review in November, saying she was focused on making a positive difference in the lives of former and still serving ADF members who struggle with their mental health and well-being each day.
"I have proudly served my country, just as the men and women who have lost their lives to suicide have served," Dr Boss said. "Although I have many years of service, predominately as an Army Reserve officer, my full-time work has been as a barrister and from 2012 as a Magistrate and Coroner. I have spent far more time in a courtroom than in a uniform. It is this blend of skills and experience that underpin my commitment to the prevention of suicide."
- Lifeline Australia 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
- Open Arms (current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families) 1800 011 046
- ADF Mental Health All-hours Support Line 1800 628 036
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